You applied for that promotion, having aced your current role, with the belief that you are ready for the next step. You ace the interview, or at least you think you did, but the feedback that you receive deflates you, landing back on the ground with a thud. Or a friend, parent or colleague has an honest moment with you, sharing something you didn’t expect. Sounds familiar? Well we’ve all been there. Let’s take a look at how the mind reacts to ‘negative’ feedback.
The first step is usually denial, where you disown the feedback, and this may not always be conscious. Sometimes, you just don’t recognise the part of you that the feedback pertains to. It may sound surprising, but like the proverbial iceberg, there is more to us than meets the eye. There are two journeys one can embark on from here on, one where we continue to seek the comfortable shade of denial, as the negativity begins to brew into bitterness. And another, where you brave the harsh blaze of reality to get a really good look at yourself, coming face to face with parts that you didn’t know existed!
Denial can serve as a useful protective blanket, buying you time whilst you absorb the shock of the feedback, but stay snuggled for too long, and you risk descending into a dark quagmire of self-pity and megalomania. The mind has a way of making perceptions feel real, and if one isn’t careful, they start crystallising into mental blocks, or worse still generalisations about prejudices. And once that happens, viewing life through this distorted lens can often reinforce our misconceptions even further.
Once we have regained our balance and had a chance to critically examine the feedback, separate the wheat from the chaff, an action plan begins to take shape. Feedback is usually a stream of consciousness, so it’s important to pick out the actionables and map them to parts of ourselves, ranging from professional skills to behavioural elements. It's important to own the feedback and set a plan of action in motion to avoid it stagnating and relapsing into a flavour of the prior journey.
Honest feedback often helps us grow, and we have to rely on those around us to support us in identifying our blind spots. It also takes courage for our friends and colleagues to give us genuine feedback, because it’s hard to predict how we would take it, but they do it with our good in mind. It’s also therefore important to be grateful for feedback, for it is a gift from those that care, and it’s up to us how we choose to leverage this outside-in view that it presents.